Keep calm. There’s a douche bro inside your house.

don't hang up 2016DON’T HANG UP

3 Stars  2016/15/83m

“Be careful who you prank.”

Directors: Damien Macé & Alexis Wajsbrot / Writer: Joe Johnson / Cast: Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne, Jack Brett Anderson, Sienna Guillory, Philip Desmeules (voice).

Body Count: 8


Terror is ‘gendered feminine’, which is why most horror posters feature a babe in peril, why we have final girls rather than boys, and why it’s always a girl alone in the house when the strange phone calls begin…

But what if instead of Scream‘s standard tormented-female, it’s a couple of teen boys who are the ones plagued by creepy calls? Welcome to Don’t Hang Up.

In spite of the above, things begin with a woman who answers a call in the wee hours to be told the cops are surrounding the house because there is an intruder and she needs to block herself in the room. She freaks, worries for her daughter, and just as the policeman tells her they can see the intruder is coming towards her, it’s revealed as a prank.

Douchier than douchey dude-bros Brady and Sam are behind it, with a couple of other buddies douches, and they load their clips online for the LOLZ. Yeah, they’re total toxic assholes and we want them to die from the off, more so when Sam, pining over his distant girlfriend, decides to play Ed fucking Sheeran for long enough to make me contemplate switching off.

don't hang up 2016

The boys get together one night at Sam’s while his folks are away and record a few more phone gags, pretending to be cops telling folks their spouses are dead, ordering pizzas for the neighbours, then calling said neighbour posing as Neighbourhood Watch to tell them thieves disguised as pizza delivery guys are working the block… Assholes.

Then they get a call back from a calm voice who tells them not to hang up, calls them a few names and is generally a bit creepy. They laugh it off and crack a beer, but the guy keeps calling, eventually dropping one of their names into it to get their attention. Seems they’ve pissed the wrong person off.

don't hang up 2016

The caller, allowing himself to be referred to as Mr Lee, plays his hand slowly, showing them he has Brady’s parents stripped and tied to chairs and they’ll die if either of the boys try to leave. The phone signal has been hacked so any attempts to call the cops are redirected back to the stranger, secrets the two of them have kept from one another are revealed, and their punk friends are also being murdered.

For a what-would-you-do dilemma horror, Don’t Hang Up does well enough, insofar as being able to explain away the things most of us would think about trying without the solutions being too obvious or the characters too stupid, and things culminate in a fairly predictable but fitting way. This is one film that actually benefits from the main characters being dicks, as they’re entirely deserving of the horror unfolding on them, with ye olde central slasher pic motif of the prank-gone-wrong.

don't hang up 2016

One part When a Stranger Calls, one part Joyride, another part Unfriended – but with a body count and emphasis on guys being terrorised for a refreshing change. Good stuff.

Ich weiß, was du vor [ ] Sommern gemacht hast

party hard die young 2018

PARTY HARD, DIE YOUNG

2 Stars  2018/89m

“Are you ready for your last dance?”

Director: Dominik Hartl / Writers: Robert Buchschwenter & Karin Lomot / Cast: Elisabeth Wabitsch, Michael Glantschnig, Marlon Boess, Markus Freistätter, Valerie Huber, Antonia Moretti, Hisham Morscher, Thomas Otrok, Alexandra Schmidt, Nikolaas von Schrader, Fabian Unger, Chantal Zitzenbacher.

Body Count: 5


I watched this German-language Austrian film, shot in Croatia, dubbed into Spanish, which I can read and speak acceptably, but am slow translating aurally, due to the tempo at which it’s spoken. So, here I was comprehending what was happening in any given scene about halfway through the next scene. Loco.

From what I could discern, a group of recently graduated friends head to a hedonistic Croatian party island where they’re cordially invited to a huge party – all lasers, EDM, and drunken fools.

Main-girl Julia does not want to tell her bestie, Jessica, that they’ll actually not be rooming together next year, as she’s going to another college. When that secret tumbles out, Jessica storms off, never to be seen again. Julia later receives a text message with a photo of Jessica crossed out.party hard die young 2018

As ever in these things, the others buy the dud message that Jessica’s partying elsewhere and continue their good time, until another girl meets a nasty end – but was it an accident or something more sinister? Another dude bids adieu stating he’s leaving early but ends up getting a bottle forced down his throat.

And so on and so forth. The remaining girls figure out that it has something to do with an old classmate, Anna, who committed suicide sometime after a party they were all at together. Red-herrings come and go, but with the language barrier and an excessively large central cast who are indistinguishable at best, it became difficult to track who trusted who.

Eventually, the final few are captured and the past sin revealed, which involved a game of spin the bottle and, I gathered, a possible sexual assault. The killer makes them play, Julia saves the day, blah blah blah.

party hard die young

Regrettably, too many of the characters survive. Given the group numbers eight-to-twelve at its peak, only four of them are actually murdered – three girls and one guy, leaving the douchiest boys intact (though embarrassed by what happened with the bottle), even though they are the ones mostly responsible for Anna’s suicide it would seem.

Some cool visuals at the party, a cute scene when the plus-size girl goes for it, and Croatian backdrops help, but the story seems to take a backseat and wimps out where it counts the most.

Slice Versa

freaky 2020 vince vaughn kathryn newton

FREAKY

3.5 Stars  2020/102m

“Basic switch. Killer new look.”

Director/Writer: Christopher Landon / Writer: Michael Kennedy / Cast: Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton, Celeste O’Connor, Misha Osherovich, Uriah Shelton, Katie Finneran, Alan Ruck, Dana Drori, Melissa Collazo, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Magnus Diehl.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “You’re black, I’m gay – we’re so dead!”


Where Happy Death Day would cut away, Freaky is here to provide the slashes and slits we missed in this ‘from the director of…’ recipient of the crown, which is a hop, skip and a jump from a time loop dilemma to ye olde body swap dilemma. The title should tell you as much: it was shot as Freaky Friday the 13th before being cropped down.

And of course, it being ready to go in The Year That Time Wouldn’t Fucking Pass By Swiftly Enough 2020, a big opening was screwed up and it mostly landed on VoD platforms. Sad times. It’s a good thing then, that Freaky is all kinds of fun!

freaky 2020 vince vaughn

The legend of The Blissfield Butcher, who has struck around Homecoming “every year since 1977″, is dissected by two teen couples partying at rich girl Ginny’s house and they quickly fall victim to a hulking loon in a mask not a million miles from something right outta Jason’s wardrobe. Before he leaves, the Butcher takes an antique dagger that Ginny’s collector-father had on display.

We then meet high school sad sack Millie, who is watching life go by to support her alcoholic mom, who is still not over the death of Millie’s father a year earlier. Older sister Charlene – a local cop – is all rules and discipline. But fortunately Millie has best friends Nyla and Joshua to count on. She pines for the attention of off-the-shelf dream-jock Booker, is teased by nasty rich girl Ryler, and cruelly humiliated in front of the class by her shop teacher.

freaky 2020 celeste o'connor misha oshenovich

After mom passes out and forgets to pick Millie up after the big game, the Butcher shows up and stabs her with the enchanted dagger. The moon clouds over, the sky churns, and they both receive an identical stab wound simultaneously: Millie is now inside the 6ft5 Butcher’s body, her is in that of a 5ft5 teenage girl. Hi-jinks shall ensue.

While Millie tries to stay incognito as locals recognise him/her from the composites drawn up of the killer, ‘Millie’ returns to school, all lipstick and bad-ass leather jacket. The boys drool, Nyla and Joshua write it off as PTSD, and ‘she’ starts killing ASAP, starting with Ryler, who is shut into one of the school’s cryo chambers (!?), and topples over, shattering into a gazillion pieces, when Millie-as-the-Butcher finds the body. Then goes mean Mr Shop Teacher, although he nearly makes it, as ‘Millie’ discovers the body of teen girl has its pitfalls in the brute strength department.

freaky 2020 kathryn newton

Real Millie manages to corner Nyla and Joshua and convince them that she’s stuck inside the Butcher’s body. Some research and a convenient Spanish teacher help resolve that the spiritual knife – La Dola – will switch souls and after 24 hours the spell will become irreversible. They need to capture Fake Millie to transfer things back to equilibrium.

Naturally, things aren’t that simple: The dagger is in police custody and even after successfully subduing ‘Millie’, the band of heroes – now including Booker – hatch a plan to switch things back, but ‘Millie’ clearly has other ideas.

freaky 2020 misha oshenovich

Vice VersaLike Father Like Son, It’s a Boy-Girl Thing, and however many versions of Freaky Friday are floating around: Like all of the characters stuck in their mom/dad/enemy’s body, Millie learns about herself, her suffering family, and even enjoys the lil bit of power being a huge guy affords her (the scene with the bathroom bully is great). Vaughn is good as the girl trying to operate her newly acquired huge frame, never camping it up too much, while Newton slots into the cold-hearted psycho role with ease, but it’s O’Connor and Osherovich as Millie’s BFF’s who steal most of the scenes they’re in.

Likeable through and through and, like Landon’s earlier films, is tessellates nicely over more than one genre type, proving there are still a lot or quirky variations on the teen slasher available.

freaky 2020 vince vaughn kathryn newton

Blurb-of-interest: Vaughn played Norman Bates in the 1998 Psycho remake.

Fan Service

friday the 13th vengeance 2019FRIDAY THE 13TH: VENGEANCE

3 Stars  2019/94m

“More than a fan film.”

Director/Writer: Jeremy Brown / Writers: Stacy Brown, Dustin Glen Montierth, Jason Brooks, T.C. De Witt, Mike Meade / Cast: C.J. Graham, Kelly Tappan, Luke Schuck, Steve Dash, Jason Brooks, Christian Sullivan, Natalie Schnelle, Tabitha Bastien, Ray Hopper, Jon A. Ravenholt, Diana Prtince, Dan Feldmeir, Senae Loutsis, Ellen Smith, Tommy McLoughlin.

Body Count: 39+

Laughter Lines: “Maybe we should ditch the bikes and cut through the woods?”


I’ve often thought that many of the problems that have beset the Friday the 13th series might be solved if the series just became a straight-to-video show. It’d likely mean these length gaps between entries would be reduced for one thing.

It seems that, tired of waiting, some folks have decided to go it alone. Never Hike Alone and its recent follow up showed how much can be achieved on micro-budgets, and Vengeance – a film actually longer than most of the originals! – landed looking like I’d expect DTV Jason to present: A little more rustic around the edges, with the requisite cheap horror trope of added lesbianism, and a redonkulously high body count.

friday the 13th vengeance 2019

Weaving a tale between the available elements, this really is a love letter chiefly to 1986’s Jason Lives, picking up in 2018 and running with the excised idea of Jason’s daddy Elias Voorhees making his long awaited debut. This point confused me somewhat – as he’d surely be around 90, but then there’s something about multiple death certificates too, so is he a ghost?? Either way, Jason resurrects from the bottom of Crystal Lake and wastes no time in squishing, impaling, hacking, and tearing limb from limb everyone he encounters. The local sheriff (the late Steve Dash, from Part 2) is keen to chalk things up to bear attacks.

Not too far away, Tommy Jarvis’ daughters Angie and Ashley are worried about their missing pa. Angie’s Jason-obsessed friend Rob agrees to help her search for him, rounding up relatives of other survivors: nieces and nephews of Ginny, Chris, and The Final Chapter‘s Rob. They’re sold on stopping Jason so head off into the wilderness where they cross paths with a Crystal Lake tour group.

friday the 13th vengeance 2019

Jason, meanwhile, has hacked his way through another tour group, and a chain gang of inmates clearing the forest, while Elias (CJ Graham) is busy hunting down the very counsellors responsible for his son’s 1957 drowning, who we get to see in a cute flashback where people say ‘fuck’ a lot more than they probably would have done back then.

Vengeance is pure love for the lore around the movies, from the font used in the credits, to the score BY HARRY MANFREDINI!!! and some truly head-tilting ideas for denouements courtesy of the J-man. My only real complaint is that it’s a very ‘busy’ film, with multiple parties in play at any one time, sending the coroner’s backlog stratospheric and a sense of futility for a couple of seemingly important characters who are summarily killed before they achieve anything, making their presence seem superfluous. It’s neither here nor there though, the people behind this have laid their adoration out for all to see and it’s something really worth the time of any Crystal Lake fan.

friday the 13th vengeance

A hatchet just before dawn’s wrong turn

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

NOBODY SLEEPS IN THE WOODS TONIGHT

3 Stars  2020/18/104m

Director/Writer: Bartosz M. Kowalski / Writers: Jan Kwiecinski & Mirella Zaradiewicz / Cast: Julia Wieniawa-Narkiewicz, Michal Lupa, Wiktoria Gasiewska, Stanislaw Cywka, Sebastian Dela, Gabriela Muskala, Michal Zbroja, Piotr Cyrwus.

Body Count: 12

Laughter Lines: “Fucking locals, B-class Poland – what am I doing here?”


Poland. Land of pierogi, Auschwitz, and questionable human rights for gay people. Our school took us there in the 90s to visit the aforementioned concentration camps. Heavy.

In 2020, the country joined the ranks of Euroslash with this slick looking pick n’ mix of Wrong TurnJust Before Dawn, and Hatchet. Thirty years after a mailman is dragged screaming into the cellar of a remote woodland home, a busload of teenagers arrives at Camp Adrenalina, a rehab joint to prize their cell phones and tablets out of their hands and show them there’s more to life than Instagram and gaming.

Group 4 pits girly Aniela, wannabe player Daniel, shy Bartek, nerdy Julek, withdrawn Zosia, and their guide Iza against the wilderness. They trek, camp, sit around the fire, and find a hollowed out stag. Meanwhile, whatever has been living in that cellar escapes when the old lady who feeds it takes a bad fall and it steals her keys, killing her as it vacates.

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

When Bartek disappears after a sexy night time booty call with Aniela (in a cute twist he turns out to be a virgin) and all that remains is blood on a nearby tree trunk, the others split into two groups – Iza, Julek, and Zosia to look for help or a phone, while Bartek and Aniela remain at the camp in case Daniel returns. The recon team stumble upon the house and run into the hulking deformed maniac, who manages to kill Iza, leaving the teens to save themselves.

From a hermit living in a shack, Judek and Zosia learn that there are twin killers, boys who found a crashed meteor in the woods years earlier, which leaked tar-like shit that turned them into psychotic cannibals overnight, causing their mother to lock them in the cellar and throw down animal carcasses.

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

Elsewhere, Bartek looks for help in a remote church, but finds the resident priest there has other ideas, nodding to Poland’s shitty record with LGBTQ residents, and culminating in a grisly woodchipper demise. Eventually, it comes down to Zosia, who we learn lost her family during a selfie-caused car accident – though why she’s at a camp for tech-obsessed teens is never addressed.

Lots of ideas are borrowed from other films: The sleeping bag kill is a direct recreation of that in Friday the 13th Part VII, and there’s a head-to-groin axe split that recalls Wrong Turn 2, but messier. There’s a great scene where Zosia, given the chance to run, instead creeps upstairs with a large machete and slowly tip-toes into the room where one of the loons is napping to take a gruesome revenge.

nobody sleeps in the woods tonight 2020

Nobody Sleeps gets further than a lot of its brethren by carving out nicer characters than expected. Given the need to adhere to certain stereotypes, none of the endangered group fall into assholery, revealing parts of themselves that make you feel sad for them when they meet the business end of an axe. The wheels work loose towards the end, but for a first international horror export it’s pretty damn solid.

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